Current ALA: CSS Design: Taming Lists
Worked For Me
99.9% of Websites are Obsolete (Digital Web)
Design: CA Interactive Winners (Communication Arts)
Clickable “Essentials” feature requires DOM–compliant browser.
8 October 2002
Indie web publishers ask when we’ll offer an RSS feed. We hand code The Daily Report, hence no middleware, hence no feeds. Fortunately a cottage industry has arisen to fill the void. Here, for instance, is a zeldman.com RSS feed by James Huston. Some may surmise that we’re opposed to content management systems. On the contrary, we often find them useful and one of our partners develops great ones for some of our clients. Nonetheless, we like authoring The Daily Report by hand and will continue to do so. We also churn our own butter.
Danger HipTop T-Mobile Sidekick stupidly breaks properly authored sites. Rant at Dashes.com, slightly more technical explanation on The Web Standards Project’s Buzz blog.
We’re wrestling with supertight deadlines and slamming up against certain technical and creative difficulties, but will continue to post for the same reason we will continue to take lunch breaks.
7 October 2002
[11 am | 10 am]
Meet the Makers San Francisco will include interface design legend Jeffrey Veen; a Web Standards panel featuring Microsoft’s Tantek Çelik and Netscape’s Arun K. Ranganathan; and key minds behind E*Trade, MapBlast, and quite probably a site sophisticated web users choose as their default start page. Free VIP tickets are available by request, first come, first served. The event takes place 21 October in the Grand Hyatt near Union Square. Meet the Makers is a series of one-day events for creative people in a technical world. Zeldman sits on its advisory board and finds it quite comfortable.
For your pleasure and convenience, our Resize widget now resides in the right-side Subnav.
A blind web user is suing Southwest Airlines because its website is incompatible with his screen reader. Details at Law.com. We keep saying that even though many sites are not (yet) legally obliged to comply with accessibility guidelines, compliance is right, smart, and may protect a site’s owners from costly litigation and negative P.R. Accessibility isn’t free, but the cost of basic accessibility (Priority 1, U.S. Section 508) is negligible if you incorporate the guidelines into your workflow. Compared to the cost of lawsuits and bad P.R., basic accessibility is a bargain. If you’re unfamiliar with accessibility or confused about what it all means for designers and site owners, try Dive into Accessibility (“30 days to a more accessible website”), Anitra Pavka’s Accessibility Weblog, and Joe Clark’s AccessiBlog.
ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the group that assigns control of domain registries to fine companies like VeriSign, has evaluated proposals to reassign the .Org registry and recommended control be assigned to The Internet Society (ISOC) of Reston, Virginia. IMS/ISC, whose non-commercial bid ICANN rejected, has evaluated the evaluation. IMS/ISC concludes ICANN’s decision could cost consumers $268 million over five years. ICANN has shut down its public bulletin board, but if you disagree with its recommendation, you can send email to email@example.com. Any mail sent to that address will be publicly posted by ICANN. If you’re concerned that your comments may get lost in cyberspace, include a cc: to
firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you participated in the “spread the dot” campaign in support of the non-commercial IMS/ISC bid, please note that the campaign has been updated and your dot should now point to the ISC’s OpenReg open source software for registries.
4 October 2002
[11 am | 9 am]
My Glamorous Life No. 73: Worked For Me.
3 October 2002
[4 pm |10 am]
Party like it’s 1997: Microsoft has redesigned. Its new layout uses font tags and other deprecated junk straight out of the mid-1990s. Below are a few excerpts:
Microsoft is a W3C member that sits on the XHTML and CSS working groups, and makes web browsers that support those technologies. Microsoft’s browser developers include longtime W3C contributors like Chris Wilson and Tantek Çelik who help create web standards and are passionate about supporting them. It’s too bad their hard work and that of other W3C members was ignored by the site’s designers.
Those who use font tags and other such junk often claim they’re doing so to make the site look good in old browsers. That wouldn’t be a sensible goal for the makers of IE6, but let’s run it up the flagpole. The ill-coded redesign looks reasonably good in Netscape 4/Win but the site is illegible in Netscape 4/Mac.
If compatibility with competitors’ outdated browsers was indeed a goal of the redesign, a competent developer could achieve it using valid XHTML and CSS and taking a hybrid, transitional approach. Our current commercial projects must look reasonably good and work reasonably well in Netscape 4, and we find standard XHTML and CSS sufficient for that purpose.
When a W3C member company that helped create XHTML and CSS ignores or misuses those web standards on its corporate site, you have to wonder who didn’t get the memo. Hat tip: Dave Shea.
4:00 update: Mark Pilgrim dives into Microsoft.com’s redesign and finds its accessibility stinks beyond human comprehension. Follow the link and see for yourself. Our guess? The team that built the site was so busy implementing .Net, they forgot about little things like usability, accessibility, legibility, and compatible scripting.
Speaking of compatible scripting ...
Jen designs like a girl. Her pretty work makes us feel naughty. Jen claims her site works best in IE, but we ran it in Mozilla 1.1 with no problems. Jen designs many sites. Visit them all. Jen is good.
Bookmarklets for designers. That’s what Willis was talking about. Fororten has some good ones.
“Companies have not yet seized the opportunities the web offers. The web is yet to come.” SXSW Interactive interviews Carole Guevin of netdiver and Independents Day on creativity, gender, and the “petri dish” of independent publishing. At SXSW 2003, Carole will lead a session on “the Seven Arms of Creativity.”
Speaking of puzzling web design decisions, the Red Dragon movie site lists as its requirements Flash, Quicktime, and Windows. They actually mean Windows Media Player. Guess that long name didn’t fit into the box the designers built. Hat tip: Jeff “Koganuts” Koga.
1 October 2002
Puppies are cuter than earthworms. Death lasts forever. These are the facts of life.
Best Halloween party invite ever — from the creators of Jerkbox & Punk’nhead.
Daring Fireball: Usability on the Apple campus.
We’ll be doing a joint interview with CSS expert/Netscape standards evangelist Eric Meyer at the upcoming Meet the Makers event in New York City. Attendance is free to web professionals who request VIP tickets. Additional featured guests include Hillman Curtis and the architects behind Zagat.com and Excite.com. (Warning: Excite is awash in redirects and popunder ads.)
The world is going straight to hell, but you can still respect your web visitors’s time by shaving unneeded bandwidth:
27 September 2002
30 September 2002 (update)
In Issue No. 151 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:
CSS Design: Taming Lists, by Mark Newhouse.
Do you crave the disciplined order of proper HTML lists but long for control over their presentation? You can put a stop to their wild ways and bad behavior. Mark Newhouse shows how to tame those lists by making them submit to your CSS while maintaining logical HTML structure.
This tutorial will interest designers and structural purists alike. (Not that designers can’t be structural purists; in fact, that’s kind of the point.) Thanks to Tanya Rabourn, who laid out and illustrated this week’s issue.
27 September: We upgraded to OS 9.2.2 this morning and now our Cinema Screen goes black most times we reboot and every time we insert a disk into the DVD-RAM drive. Specs: clean install of OS 9.2.2 on internal hard drive, running only Apple extensions and control panels (no Suitcase, no Spell Catcher, no Conflict Catcher, etc.), with no external drives connected. Apple Cinema Screen monitor, Apple-installed internal drive, Apple-installed factory RAM, Apple-installed DVD-RAM drive. No third-party anything. System unusable.
Update 30 September: It took some doing, but we’re back in business. We’re also back in OS 9.1, all later versions of Mac OS having proved spectacularly incompatible with our dual processor G4. Twenty-four hours in, we were pretty well convinced that our problems bespoke a hardware problem. As a last resort, doubting it would work, we used Retrospect to revert to a previously saved state. Miracle of miracles, after reverting to OS 9.1, this Mac works perfectly and we are back in the design business. Draw your own conclusions.
26 September 2002
Welcome to zeldman.com, a poorly designed website that hides vital content from its many naive, first-time visitors. Mike Steinbaugh rightfully observes that convoluted features like buttons reveal our inability to design in accordance with the average user’s needs.
Not only that, but by hiding content unless the visitor clicks the buttons, our site wastes bandwidth, as Brad Choate notes. We guess nearly 4K of markup gets squandered in this fashion. The fact that hidden content loads instantly on the client side if you choose to push the button in no way excuses such excess.
And while our cookie saves your font preference, it stupidly fails to save your preference to view or not view the crap in our sidebar. Bad, bad, bad.
Brad and Mike failed to observe that our nav bar points mainly to outdated sections of the site, including one that no longer exists; that one of its items is an external site that loads in a new window; and that naive visitors might become confused when external links load in a new window while internal links load in this one. In short, from a general usability perspective, this is a bad site whose primary value is as an example of what not to do.
If this site were visited almost exclusively by web designers who read it several times a week, and if those readers were aware that its formatting continually changes, sometimes in playful or even silly ways, well, that might be different.
It still wouldn’t get us off the hook for the nav bar, though.
This rain gives us a headache, and headaches make us grumpy bears.
Frownland comments on our recent experiences trying to install OS X 10.2.1 Jaguar and provides a balanced view of the operating system’s strengths and shortcomings. One designer we know was so displeased with OS X after installing it that he considered launching a Switch Back campaign. Many others, of course, love it. We’d settle for being able to use it, and we plan to try installing it again as soon as our current workload lightens.
Joe Clark notes that, though it’s switched off by default, subpixel rendering (that is, antialiasing comparable to that found in OS X 10.2) was introduced in Windows XP under the name ClearType. We were probably too busy confusing first-time visitors with bad design to notice this event. All kidding aside, we should have known that. But we use Windows mainly for testing, and we don’t run XP. Also, we’re human. This rain gives us a headache, and headaches make us grumpy bears. Joe’s damn fine book, Building Accessible Websites, should be available on 11 October.
25 September 2002
[3 pm | 11 am]
Congratulations to Lee Green, winner of the iStockphoto.com T-shirt design contest, and to KnifeChase and ChrisDesign, whose fine entries took second and third place. (The winner was determined by popular vote.) Winners will receive prizes including a Holga medium format camera and New Riders design books. iStockphoto is a collection of royalty-free photos and multimedia files created and contributed by its members. A new iStockphoto contest will launch Friday.
Friday’s Photoshop Tennis match, pitting Nando Costa against Denis Kamioka (warning: full screen), has been postponed due to a glitch in the Matrix.
Readers have written, wanting to know if Useablenet’s LIFT is “for real.” Available in various standalone packages or as a component of Dreamweaver MX, LIFT has earned a solid rep as a product that can help identify accessibility problems in sites you’re developing. You can also test individual web pages online for free using Watchfire’s Bobby accessibility validator, or buy a standalone version of Bobby.
No product can identify or solve all accessibility problems, as such issues require human analysis and judgement. But Bobby and LIFT can provide a huge head start, and can guide you through some of the subtler problems of accessible development. Of course you can also do the same thing by hand if you take the time to learn the WAI Guidelines with the help of a good book or two.
LIFT has received increased attention because of a new version that incorporates Nielsen/Norman usability guidelines. We’re not sure how usability can be incorporated into a product, since to us usability is a case-by-case thing, not a set of universal guidelines. But we haven’t tried the new product and for all we know it delivers what it promises.
Brad Barrish wrote to us last Sunday with OS X setup tips that may prevent the kinds of problems we encountered during the four days we wasted trying to get OS X to work. These very same OS X setup tips have now been posted at K10k. Numerous readers have written in with variations on the theme composed by Brad. ’Most all involve backing up, reformatting, partitioning, installing components in a particular order, reinstalling applications one by one over a period of days, restoring documents from backup drives, and revolving a dead chicken over your head.
We thanked Brad for his tips but disregarded them at the time because we could not believe such a convulted tango was required to install an Apple system on an Apple machine.
Reader comments on OS X Blues and OS X Blues II have fallen into five categories:
1. Many had installed OS X with no problems and shuddered at the thought of ever going back to OS 9. Most of these folks extended their condolences, though a handful implied that we were somehow at fault.
2. Many others offered Byzantine instructions like Brad’s and assured us that once we had OS X working we would be grateful to Apple for the rest of our lives.
3. Some had installed OS X with no problems but gave it a mixed review and were far from certain that Apple is truly listening to its core audience. Among other complaints, they averred that Quartz rendering of text in browsers (particularly IE) gives web designers a false sense of what they’re designing, (a) because Quartz rendering throws off font metrics, changing character count vis-a-vis column widths in precisely designed layouts; (b) because 95% or more of the market does not use OS X and therefore does not see the gracefully antialiased text the designer sees, though that will likely change as soon as Microsoft introduces copycat technology in a future version of Windows. Quartz also increases the bugginess of CSS rendering in Mac browsers, particularly IE, though an upcoming upgrade to IE5/Mac may fix that issue. Some users reported CSS bugs in Mozilla after upgrading to OS X. One was grateful that iCab allows you to turn off Quartz rendering, though he acknowledged that said option provides little help, since iCab gets CSS wrong. For now, pages look prettier in OS X but are rendered more accurately and with fewer bugs in OS 9.
4. A few readers had experienced installation problems like ours.
5. Still others were experiencing unrelated life problems and just felt like sharing.
By far the greatest number of responses came from those in groups 1 or 2 above, whom we may classify as fully committed, hardcore OS X fans. No one from either of those groups questioned for a moment that upgrading was worth it.
24 September 2002
OS X Blues II, a software version of Saving Private Ryan.